When I was 17 years old, my life seemed to be consumed with one thing–band. Yes, there were the normal concerns of a typical 17-year-old male–dating, looking cool, not failing trig, etc. However, most of my time was spent with my saxophone in hand, practicing and practicing the same music over and over, trying to convert the tunes into muscle memory so that I could play them without the music held on my horn. My feet were learning and relearning where to step, how to get there, and at what exact moment in the song I had to be on my mark.
It was more than a hobby, more than a class. It was an obsession.
The funny thing was that during all this I couldn’t see how my part fit. I couldn’t see the “whole”. I knew my spots, I knew my notes, but I had no clue how I was more than just a person walking on a field playing music. I was a part of the machine, the circuitry that flowed and created shapes and harmony, designs and rhythm.
It usually wasn’t until after the first football game, when we were still preparing for our first marching contest, that our band director would play us the video of our performance. Then we had the ability to watch it all unfold, to see how we meshed together to become something more than what we were alone.
I took my son this weekend to the annual Tupelo MSHAA Marching Band Festival, allowing him to witness this unique art form first hand. I was depressed at first when, after two bands had performed and a slice of pizza and a Sprite had been consumed, he turned to me and said “Dad, when can we go?”. For a seven-year old, it wasn’t exactly spectacular.
However, the next band that performed had a tribute to James Bond, beginning their set with smoothly silent start of every James Bond movie before the brass kicked into high gear.
“BUM BUM BA BUUMMMM BA BUUUUM BAAAAAA”
His eyes lit up. Over the next few minutes, they performed songs from a few Bond movies, hitting all of the most famous. When they reached “Live and Let Die”, my son turned to me, smiling.
“Dad, if you want to stay for a few more bands, that’s cool.”
It was his way of saying “This is pretty awesome”.
The kids in the band probably still had no clue–just like I didn’t when I was their age. Art is funny that way. Never in my mind could I have imagined that, watching that video so many years ago and seeing us move as one unit, hearing us take different parts and different notes and combining them into something special, I still didn’t see the “whole”. I still didn’t see how it all came together. I didn’t see how just by being a part of that machine, being a part of that circuitry, we not only created something more than we could individually, but we also changed some who heard and saw us.
Think about that next time a character doesn’t fit how you want, or something doesn’t ring true. Sometimes, you never see how everything works out.